On 17 May 2015, speedy young Wellingtonians will have a chance to hone their running skills and compete against their peers in the first of a series of cross country events organised by Athletics Wellington. The Kids Cross Country Series caters for school children from year zero to year eight. Competitors can do one or several of the five races, which are held on Sunday mornings at various Wellington locations.
The goal of the series is to make cross country accessible and fun for young runners – and to introduce them to the Wellington athletics scene. Participants don’t have to belong to an athletics or harrier club to take part, and can enter as individuals or teams if they like.
The series is just one of several initiatives Athletics Wellington has introduced to build participation in the sport. Jo Murray, Athletics Wellington’s Sport Development Manager, explains that there are many reasons to get involved.
“Athletics and cross country are wonderful sports because they provide so many benefits,” says Jo. “The core skills of running, throwing and jumping are the foundations for most other physical pursuits, so it makes a lot of sense to add athletics to your child’s sporting repertoire. Even if it’s not their primary sport, it will help them achieve better results in other areas.
“That said, athletics is an amazing sport in its own right and it really is a sport for life. We have people in their eighties still participating in races and club events and enjoying themselves at local competitions. It is an incredibly family-friendly, fun sport for people of all abilities to get involved,” she says.
While Jo’s role, partly funded by NZCT, focuses on building youth participation, there are several other areas she is also developing. The Get Set Go programme, endorsed by Athletics NZ is gaining recognition as a valuable resource for under seven year olds. It uses ‘play’ to keep children motivated while they develop core movement skills. The programme is simple to run and has been successfully used by schools, clubs and parents.
Athletics Wellington also runs ‘Have a Go’ leagues for college-aged children and Coach the Coaches training for club volunteers. Jo organises a kids’ fun run along the Wellington waterfront each December, and this year will be coordinating Athletics Wellington’s club development and talent development programmes. It’s no wonder Jo’s always on the run!